For this year, our backpacking season ended with my solo hike over Labor day. We might be driving out to discover the road to new routes over the next month or so before the snows start, but for the most part we are firmly into the off season.

In previous years, that would mean a month or so of taking it easy, going to the gym maybe once a week, maybe less, eating as much as we had in the intense months of backpacking and generally lazing around.

Not this year.

Ambrose and I have both gained fitness over the last year, and we intend to keep our momentum going through the off season right into next summer. The difference that regular workouts made to our backpacking performance this year was incredible. We went from struggling to do six miles to being able to do ten miles (even if it was by accident). We were a lot stronger this summer than last, and we both want to continue that trend.

So our off season has begun with several fitness goals – running, weights and variety.

We are each trying to run four to five times a week. For now, the length of time isn’t huge. I’m making sure that I learn to run with good mechanics this time to prevent injury, and Ambrose, well, he’s old, so we’re both starting out slow and easy with fifteen minute runs.

Ambrose does weights twice during the week, and I do it once. We both do weights on Saturday mornings. Our weights routine uses the cable cross machine at the gym, but we might start working in free weights to challenge ourselves.

But the big workout is Sunday.

On Sunday we do a kind of pseudo-triathlon. I haven’t decided what it should be called yet, other than hard. We swim for fifteen minutes, change, stationary bike for fifteen minutes, and then run for fifteen minutes. After the run, I take a ten pound plate and hold it above my head for one lap around the track while I do twenty forward walking lunges and twenty backward walking lunges (I’m trying to get Ambrose to join me, but no luck so far). Then we go melt in the hot tub for a while. Oh, and this is after we’ve ridden our bikes to the gym, and before we have to ride them home. So it’s more like bike, swim, bike, run, lunges, hot tub and bike. Crazy-athlon? Multi-athlon? Haven’t-puked-yet-but-getting-close-athlon?

This Saturday, when we lifted weights and then ran, I lapped Ambrose three times, and now that’s my goal whenever we run together on the track. I also recorded a mile time of 11:25, by counting my time for eleven laps, after running two laps as warm up. (Yes, the track requires eleven laps for one mile, no, I don’t know why anyone ever thought that was a good idea.) Today, after I swam and Ambrose didn’t (he cut his finger, and we didn’t want him to be bleeding into the pool), and we both biked, I lapped him three times and recorded a mile time of 10:32. On the last lapping, he tried to pass me back. I could hear his footsteps quickening behind me, but I pushed and dug and didn’t see him come in front of me.

The competition is good for both of us. We push each other to go faster, try harder and dig deeper, even if I’ve got the advantage of youth over him and he the advantage of trickery on me.

As the deep bruise from my bike accident fades from my knee, we’ll be adding time to the run, slowly, carefully, to try and prevent injuries and build a sustainable model for running distances. We’ll also add time to the swim and bike portions of our Sunday workout. We’re going into this off season with a plan, and a passion. It isn’t going to be easy, but we wouldn’t be backpacking if we wanted easy.

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